Bishops renew call for Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

Last month, the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced a rule requiring employers, including Catholic institutions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in their employee health plans, free of charge.

I joined more than 175 bishops in urging the faithful in their dioceses to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse this rule. The bishops’ were joined in their opposition to this rule by leaders from many different faiths and politicians and opinion leaders all across the political spectrum.

The broad range of opposition to the HHS rule did not stem from a unified belief in the intrinsic evil of contraception, abortion or sterilization – far from it. Rather, Americans of varied political and religious belief saw the rule as inimical to rights of conscience and to the freedom of religion, enshrined as the first freedom in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

As a priest and bishop I wish to renew my conviction about the Church’s constant belief that the use of artificial contraception defaces and diminishes the God-intended meaning of marriage. It is a serious moral evil which continues to be a source of hurt and unchastity within and outside of marriage, and has been a cause of the devaluation of married love.

Whether sharing the Church’s position on contraception or not, many Americans shared the belief that it is a grave violation of conscience to compel anyone to purchase or provide a service in violation of their religious or moral beliefs and that it is a violation of the freedom of religion for the state to determine which religious institutions are deserving of that freedom.

In response to this general outcry, President Obama announced last Friday, what the White House termed an “accommodation”. Under this accommodation, the state would still determine which religious institutions were eligible to fully exercise their religious and conscience rights by declining the coverage. Those religious institutions not passing the test must still include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in their employee health plans. However, the accommodation requires the insurance company itself to pay for such coverage rather than the religious employer.

Commenting on this new mandate, Congressman Dan Lipinski (D – Ill.) said:

“All the facts indicate that the ‘new’ mandate is the same as the ‘old’ mandate. New words, same policy. . .

“. . . So religious organizations have to provide health care coverage from insurance companies that are required to provide abortion drugs, sterilization, and contraception. What changed? This is the same policy. . .

“. . .To say that the insurer and not the employer is required to provide the coverage is a fiction. There is no accommodation for religious liberty.”

Furthermore — the new rule provides no relief for private individuals or companies, all of which must purchase or provide health coverage including abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception or face heavy fines.

This latter point was highlighted by the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter reacting to the mandate. The letter objects to any rule “forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion.” And they recognize that this would impose a violation of conscience on many beyond religious employers:

“[T]he mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such ‘services’ immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage.”

The bishops conclude that “The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.”

One way the bishops support rescinding this mandate is by passing the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. I join my brother bishops in renewing “our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.”

Please ask your representative and senators to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

The Senate version of the Act is S. 1467 (Blunt – MO). The House bill is H.R. 1179 (Fortenberry – NE).

Senator Claire McCaskill
4141 Pennsylvania Ave., Ste. 101
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
Phone: 816-421-1639
Fax: 816-421-2562

Senator Roy Blunt
911 Main Street, Suite 2224
Kansas City, MO 64105
Phone: 816-471-7141
Fax: 816-471-7338

Rep. Vickie Hartzler (4th District)
1909 North Commercial Street
Harrisonville, MO 64701
Phone: 816-884-3411
Fax: 816-884-3163

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II
(5th District)
101 W. 31 Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: 816-842-4545
Fax: 816-471-5215

Rep. Sam Graves
(6th District)
201 S. 8th Street
Room 330
St. Joseph, Missouri 64501
Phone: 816-233-9818
Fax: 816-233-9848


  1. February 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    If you don’t like the federal government, give up your tax-exempt status. 

  2. February 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Let me get this straight. The Catholic Church is fine with providing Viagra, but it’s not okay to provide preventative care to women? Oh. 

    • February 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

       The Church, at least the Kansas City – St. Joseph Diocese, does not provide Viagra in its insurance coverage. Many secular insurance companies do not either.

      Contraception is not preventative care and neither is it unavailable. If, as so many report, that it is used by 98% of women, what the heck is the reason to force Catholic insurance carriers to pay for it.

  3. February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I don’t understand your problem. The Church is no longer required to pay for these services. The insurance company is providing them directly. And I don’t know if you knew this, but insurance companies like money. It’s far more cost-effective for State-Farm, United Healthcare, etc. to provide contraception than it is to pay for childbirth, and every health expense following for the child. Everyone wins, and yet The Church isn’t happy. (Strange, because 95% of Catholics use contraception). 

    • February 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

       This is a very dim statement. Insurance companies are, in fact, objecting to this required coverage. They are objecting because it is a plain fiction. Many dioceses and Catholic institutions are self-insured. They use insurance companies to administer their own self-insurance. To tell the insurance companies to pay for something their self-insured clients will not pay for is theft. If they pass along the cost, then there is no religious exemption.

  4. February 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    When the church is all about Gods’ Kingdom she doesn’t accept responsibility  for politicians ambitions, their worldly greed…and a war costing tens’ of thousands of innocent lives in Iraq. Jesus preached a different thought, power, and strength. I’m discouraged when my church resembles fox news more than the ‘Good News. I have my own means, to educate and have a free response without intimidation that no american citizen can tolerate.

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October 01, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph